9th Sunday after Trinity

1st August 2021

9th Sunday after Trinity

Year B

 

Collect

Almighty God,
who sent your Holy Spirit
to be the life and light of your Church:
open our hearts to the riches of your grace,
that we may bring forth the fruit of the Spirit
in love and joy and peace;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

 

Exodus 16.2-4,9-15

In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the LORD’S hand in Egypt! There we sat round pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.”

Then the LORD said to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions.

Then Moses told Aaron, “Say to the entire Israelite community, ‘Come before the LORD, for he has heard your grumbling.’”

While Aaron was speaking to the whole Israelite community, they looked towards the desert, and there was the glory of the LORD appearing in the cloud.

The LORD said to Moses, “I have heard the grumbling of the Israelites. Tell them, ‘At twilight you will eat meat, and in the morning you will be filled with bread. Then you will know that I am the LORD your God.’”

That evening quail came and covered the camp, and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. When the dew was gone, thin flakes like frost on the ground appeared on the desert floor. When the Israelites saw it, they said to each other, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was.

Moses said to them, “It is the bread the LORD has given you to eat.”

 

Ephesians 4.1-16

As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit – just as you were called to one hope when you were called – one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. This is why it says:

     “When he ascended on high,
         he led captives in his train
         and gave gifts to men.”

(What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions?

He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.) It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fulness of Christ.

Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

 

John 6.24-35

Once the crowd realised that neither Jesus nor his disciples were at the place where the people had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks, they got into the boats and went to Capernaum in search of Jesus.

When they found him on the other side of the lake, they asked him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?”

Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, you are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.”

Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?”

Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”

So they asked him, “What miraculous sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? Our forefathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”

Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”

“Sir,” they said, “from now on give us this bread.”

Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.”

 

Reflection by Rodney

 

May I speak in the name of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit - Amen

Is it an inescapable feature of the human condition that we are always grumbling about something?  There’s always the weather to complain about if you live in England, of course.  It is high summer, the start of August, and the forecast is for rain every day in the coming week!  And, if you live on the Island, there’s the ferries too - I waited for over three hours in the carpark at Gunwharf Quay last Monday for my ferry back to the Island.  Then there is the government, no need for further explanation on that one!  And, worst of all, we grumble about each other, causing hurt and fracturing unity.  We seem to be a generation of grumblers.

 

But our readings this morning suggest that things were not much different in biblical times.  In our first reading, from the book of Exodus, we heard how, despite having just been rescued from generations of slavery in Egypt, the Israelites, instead of being overjoyed, started moaning about the hardships involved in crossing the desert, even to the point of suggesting that they would have been better off remaining in Egypt, with no freedom and no future.  And so, hearing their grumbles, God provided them with quails and manna from heaven to eat, game birds and bread, and with fresh water that flowed from a rock when Moses struck it with his staff – and were they grateful and satisfied?  Not at all, because before long they were grumbling again about the lack of variety in their diet.  So grumbling was evidently a well-established feature of life in the time of Moses.

 

And in the reading for today from John’s gospel (which you can read on the pew leaflet but we are not reading aloud at Morning Prayer) we learn how, shortly after the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand, Jesus crossed over to the other side of the lake in order to escape the crowds, but some of them followed him.  Despite the extraordinary miracle of feeding so many people with so little food that he had just performed, this new group of people demanded a sign to demonstrate that he really was sent from God, complaining that Moses had demonstrated his God-given authority by asking God to feed the people with manna.  And Jesus responded by telling them that he is himself the bread who comes from God and gives life to the world and they should believe and not look for further signs.  So even Jesus had to face the grumblers, still dissatisfied despite the amazing miracle that he had already performed and now needing to be told that they have the privilege of encountering in person one come from heaven to feed them.

 

And finally, we have St Paul writing to the Christians in Ephesus and telling them that they must no longer be children, tossed about by every wind of false doctrine, trickery, deceit and scheming, but must speak truthfully and lovingly and build up their community – and he begs them, from his imprisonment in Rome, to lead lives that are worthy of their calling to be disciples of Jesus, living with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love and making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.  This letter is a cross between a head-magisterial ticking off and an inspirational pep talk to try harder to be the sort of people that they profess to be.  He urges less grumbling about each other, less quarrelling and more love and unity of purpose so that they can grow closer to Christ.  Of course, St Paul’s words speak as well to us as they did to the Christians in Ephesus.

Some of you will know that the diocesan plans for pastoral restructuring in order to secure sustainable, mission-orientated ministry on the Island have been paused for about six months to allow further consideration to take place.  In north-east Wight, a feasibility study is being led by the Area Dean, who is the vicar of Bembridge.  Hilary and I are part of the writing group that is going to report on the progress of the study over the coming months.  So far, we have met just once and were given three tasks to complete before we next meet.  One of the tasks is to write, in consultation with our parishes, what he calls a ‘one-breath’ statement of the single thing that we need to do in order that our vision might come about.  The diocesan vision is that the church should grow in depth of spirituality, in impact in the community and in number of committed followers.  So, what single thing can we do to make that vision a reality?  So far, the best answer that I have come up with is - To reveal God’s love in our lives, in our church and in the community – but if you can suggest something that you think is an improvement on that, please do send it to me because at present the Binstead and Havenstreet Mission Committee are pondering it.  But it seems to me that if we can do as St Paul instructed the Ephesian church, and set aside all grumbling and disputation, and really allow the love of God to shine through us into our lives, and our churches, and our communities, that really will be the single thing that we can do to transform ourselves and our church and enable that vision of growth to come about. 

May God help us as we try to live as Jesus commanded us.  Amen

Post Communion Prayer

Holy Father,
who gathered us here around the table of your Son
to share this meal with the whole household of God:
in that new world where you reveal the fullness of your peace,
gather people of every race and language
to share in the eternal banquet of Jesus Christ our Lord.

 

Copyright acknowledgement (where not already indicated above):

Ephesians 4.1-16 ©  1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Pub. Hodder & Stoughton
Exodus 16.2-4,9-15 ©  1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Pub. Hodder & Stoughton
John 6.24-35 ©  1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Pub. Hodder & Stoughton
Some material included in this service is copyright: ©  The Archbishops' Council 2000